Valley Link – a planned transportation system between the San Joaquin Valley and the Dublin-Pleasanton BART station – moved one step closer to reality at the Tri-Valley–San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority (RRA) board meeting on Wednesday, July 8.
The RRA board unanimously voted to support placing Valley Link in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) master plan of short- and long-term transportation projects scheduled to be constructed and operated.
“It’s where Valley Link needs to be to keep moving forward,” said RRA Executive Director Michael Tree. “They update the plan every four years and typically give each update a name. We are currently in the update process Regional Transportation Plan, and the name of this update is Plan Bay Area 2050.”
Tree stated that the hurdle to the MTC plan is Valley Link’s placement in the second of two periods. The first period is for projects to be constructed and open before 2035. And the second period is for projects to be constructed and open after 2035. The MTC board’s conservative financial planning placed Valley Link to be built after 2035. The RRA Board agreed to discuss with MTC moving the train to period one.
The RRA board is comprised of stakeholders from both Alameda and San Joaquin counties, including Assemblymember Scott Haggerty, Livermore Mayor John Marchand, Dublin Councilmember Melissa Hernandez, as well as councilmembers from Tracy, Lathrop and Stockton. Board Chair Haggerty discussed ways to keep the project moving forward financially in the towns where commuters need it most.
“I think as elected leaders in the San Joaquin area, you could get on Zoom and let them know, next time you do a tax measure, this is something you are going to look at,” Haggerty said during the meeting. “Let them know, as a leader in San Joaquin Valley, you are committed to helping find your portion of the funds to get this thing going . . . a lot of these big businesses, their people are commuting from your area to the jobs, and they need this.”
The RRA was established in January of 2018 by Assembly Bill 758 with the purpose of creating a cost-effective solution to the rush hour issues plaguing many workers as they travel the often-clogged Altamont Pass. Its solution is Valley Link, another commuter option between the San Joaquin Valley and the Tri-Valley, with connections to BART and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE).
The two-phase project, formally adopted by the RRA in October of last year, is currently undergoing design and environmental review. The first phase allows for rail service from the existing Dublin-Pleasanton BART station to northern Lathrop. The second phase will extend the rail from Lathrop to the existing ACE station in Stockton.
Valley Link differs from BART in location, cost and carbon footprint. While BART primarily serves the Bay Area, Valley Link will extend to the Central Valley. Its trains and rail both cost far less to build and operate than traditional custom pieces used by BART. In addition, Tree noted Valley Link is ‘greener’ than BART.
“It will either operate hybrid battery/diesel or will operate zero emissions with an electric/battery combination,” he said. “Catenary lines will be in the Altamont corridor where trains will touch wires and get power from electricity to both power trains and recharge batteries. In the Tri-Valley and the San Joaquin Valley, the train would operate on the batteries. Valley Link Board will decide which of the two technologies it will use during the environmental process for the project.”
For more information on the RRA or Valley Link Project, visit https://www.valleylinkrail.com/.